How to co-lead a team

Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT - BY RE­BECCA NEW­TON

We don’t lead alone. We lead with oth­ers. The days of t he “Great Ma n ” theor y of lead­er­ship – where a lone leader rules over the masses from an ivory tower – are long gone.

Some of us quite l itera l l y l ead with another per­son – we co-lead a pro­ject, a team or an or­gan­i­sa­tion with a peer. One study found that shared lead­er­ship is a use­ful pre­dic­tor of an ef­fec­tive team. Other re­search sug­gests that shared lead­er­ship can also lead to greater team in­ter­ac­tion, in­creased col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­or­di­na­tion, as well as novel and more i nno­va­tive so­lu­tions. But the ar­range­ment can WHETHER WE ARE RE­CRUITED OR PRO­MOTED INTO A ROLE TO LEAD WITH SOME­ONE ELSE, OR WE AC­TIVELY BRING SOME­ONE ON BOARD TO LEAD ALONG­SIDE US, CO-LEAD­ER­SHIP IS A SKILL THAT MOST OF US NEED TO STRENGTHEN:

Share own­er­ship of the goal but di­vide roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Ex­plore and un­der­stand each other’s strengths and ex­per­tise, then go through a de­tailed process of agree­ing who is re­spon­si­ble for what. Re­search sug­gests that co-lead­er­ship is much more likely to be suc­cess­ful with clear dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

Re­mem­ber that co-lead­er­ship af­fects more than just the two of you. We tend to fo­cus on how we nav­i­gate this re­la­tion­ship for our­selves, but it can be equally tricky for oth­ers to nav­i­gate “us”. Clients, lead­ers and es­pe­cially the com­bined team can find co-lead­er­ship ar­range­ments chal­leng­ing, es­pe­cially at first. Com­mu­ni­cate your roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to oth­ers, and seek reg­u­lar feed­back.

Be first to re­al­lo­cate praise for s uc­cesses a nd f i r s t t o pi ck up re­spon­si­bil­ity for fail­ures. Whether oth­ers cor­rectly or in­cor­rectly as­sign suc­cess to you per­son­ally, praise your co-leader for any suc­cess. When easily be­come drain­ing and frus­trat­ing if the re­la­tion­ship isn’t strong.

Suc­cess­ful co-lead­er­ship be­gins with com­mit­ment. When col­leagues and I de­signed and fa­cil­i­tated the f irst col­lab­o­ra­tive t rain­ing bet ween the po­lice forces of t wo lo­cal­i­ties with a decades-long history of con­flict, we had the op­por­tu­nity to see co-lead­er­ship in its most pow­er­ful form. By not merely “putting the past aside” but fo­cus­ing on a col­lab­o­ra­tive fu­ture, the lead­ers from each force en­sured a suc­cess­ful train­ing pro­gramme that rolled out in their com­mu­ni­ties. Their joint suc­cess was not only a re­sult of their com­mit­ment to the pro­gramme and its ob­jec­tives but also t heir vis­i­ble com­mit­ment fail­ures hap­pen, own and ad­dress them to­gether, re­gard­less of your di­rect in­put into the sit­u­a­tion.

Be open to rene­go­ti­at­ing your roles based on chang­ing cir­cum­stances and am­bi­tions. Over time, our skills grow and we want to ex­pand our lead­er­ship ca­pac­ity. So a task that may once have been un­ap­peal­ing to your co-leader may even­tu­ally be­come a stretch goal that he would like to em­brace. There are end­less ways in which both you and your co-leader may want to change the dy­namic of your re­la­tion­ship. Be open to these changes in your part­ner, and share your own evolv­ing goals.

Recog­nise that you your­self may have the great­est i mpact on your co-leader’s ex­pe­ri­ence of work. And that he has the same im­pact on yours. Hon­est con­ver­sa­tions ex­plor­ing the re­al­ity of this ar­range­ment – what ’ s great, what ’ s chal­leng­ing and what feels lim­it­ing or re­stric­tive – may be emo­tional and, at times, un­com­fort­able. But the ef­fort pays off. to one another, which ended with a re­la­tion­ship that would go on to af­fect count­less oth­ers.

In­vest­ing time and energy into this co-lead­er­ship re­la­tion­ship be­yond just the scope of your role will al­most cer­tainly make it a bet­ter one. It will also mean that, not only for the or­gan­i­sa­tion but also for both of you per­son­ally, t wo heads re­ally can be bet­ter than one. Re­becca New­ton is a busi­ness psy­chol­o­gist, lead­er­ship ad­viser and vis­it­ing fel­low in the depart­ment of man­age­ment at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics and Po­lit­i­cal Science.

© 2015 Har­vard Busi­ness School Pub­lish­ing Corp.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.